Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. I can vouch for THERE WILL BE BLOOD, but I have not yet seen SWEENEY TODD. Below you'll get 3 TODD reviews and 1 TWBB review thrown in for good measure. Most of the SWEENEY reviews aren't positive, they're glowingly positive, with one that's more mixed negative. There's a few spoilers... the first review is especially detailed, but nothing too terrible. Enjoy!
Dear Harry, Moriarty et al Had a chance to catch Sweeney Todd in London last night and – simply – WOW! OK, I’ll elaborate. The screening was held at Warners UK headquarters, and was mostly made up of eager to vote BAFTA members, their guests (of which I was one) and a few favoured press. The place was packed out, although curiously there were a couple of walk outs early on, why, I don’t know. As I’m sure it is with anyone eager to see this movie, I’m a big Burton fan (POTA I try to forget) and couldn’t wait to see what Johnny does next, as each of his performances over the last few years seems to be an exercise in the unexpected and in outdoing all expectations. I should also say that I do not know the original musical, so I can’t name most of the songs accurately, don’t know how much of the score was cut and so on. Being a novice in regard to Sondheim’s original however, is by now means a drawback to seeing Burton’s version, as he has clearly opted not to put a Broadway show on the big screen, but to offer up a musical journey into the mind of a damaged revenge thirsty killer and his pie making paramour. And as a movie alone, it’s a feast to behold. After some grand guignol-esque animated titles, the film opens with Depp’s ship arriving in old London town. The first few minutes crack along at a superb pace, not only establishing the town – a bravura visual dash through the backstrets and alleys of this seedy city – but also, via Sondheim’s superbly clever, densely lyrical songs, deals with all the exposition in a flash – Todd is really Benjamin Barker, a barber exiled to Australia by wicked Judge Turpin, in order to claim Barker’s wife as his own. The wife supposedly having died, the Judge now lusts after Barker’s daughter Johanna (Jayne Wisener). We’re also introduced to Mrs. Lovett and her cockroach encrusted pie shop via her wonderful song ‘The Worst Pies in London.’ These opening few minutes also serve to put our minds to rest vis a vis Depp and Bonham Carter’s vocal abilities. Both have strong, decent voices, even if their range is limited. More importantly, they really know how to act the songs, more than just merely sing them, which is of course essential here, as this is not a totally dialogue free movie, but the vocals far outstrip the dialogue in terms of both screen time and story telling. The music itself is wonderful, but more than anything it does bring to mind the question – when was the last time you saw a real, serious musical on screen? Not one that relies on witty pastiche (Hairspray), clever parody (Little Shop), pop music homage (Dreamgirls) or had anything to do with Elton John? This is serious stuff, and it may prove too much for a mass audience. Which is not to say that the nature of the film is in anyway exclusional. Curiously, for a movie that brilliantly creates a vision of Victorian London in such intricate detail, Burton’s Todd is a surprisingly intimate film. His musical numbers are not big production numbers, but are filmed often in sharp close ups, letting his cast tell the tale. While London pulses away outside their windows, Todd and Lovett duet alone inside their empty shop. This is their own isolated world that Burton takes us into, an insular glimpse of a distorted mind or two. This isn’t the first time Burton has stuck poor Johnny in a dilapidated attic room with cutting implements at the end of his wrists, but here it’s a world refracted through Todd’s broken mirror, and drenched in the colour red. Which brings me to the blood – and there is plenty of it. It’s no spoiler given the subject matter to let you know that characters die and revenge is had, but in a year that also saw Cronenberg’s Eastern Promises, Sweeney Todd gives you a good run for your money in the throat slitting department. One lovely song in fact is set to a veritable montage of Todd disposing of his customers, all in preparation for the real blood letting he has in store for Rickman’s Judge. So has Burton pulled off the considerable challenge of making a dark, gruesome musical with a cast of non-singing actors into a dazzling, potentially Oscar worthy success? Yup! In spades. Dante’s Ferretti’s production design is, as ever, a thing of wonder, although it never in any way comes close to overshadowing the performers. The cast are uniformly excellent – Depp continues to confound expectations by going to extremes and bringing the audience right along with him, Rickman is delightful sleazy with a touch of sorrow, Tim Spall is as reliable as ever, and Bonham Carter, whose make up and costumes look like what she normally wears to a movie premiere, is superb, delicate of voice at times, but both vulnerable and comic as the besotted Mrs Lovett. So how does this stand in the canon of Burton movies? It is in many ways unique, not just by virtue of being a musical. Although clearly set in the dark, gloom laden horror movie noir world he loves, visually the movie is not for once redolent with his usual visual motifs. It exists very much as a world of its own. You wouldn’t instantly label this ‘another Tim Burton movie,’ it’s more than that. Through his focus on performance and the tale the music tells, Burton has created a film that is both clearly his work but also something separate and unique. There is some humour here, but it is very black and lacks his trademark quirkiness, quite rightly. I read a net article a few weeks back about how Sweeney Todd posed a problem for the marketing types at Warners, and in many respects, the star wattage aside, this is a tough sell of a movie. But it’s also a hell of a movie, definitely, and defiantly, one of the best movies of 2007.
That review really gets my juices flowing for this one. And the below review does it's best to stop that flow, even though it's not wholly negative.
Just got back from a Sweeney Todd screening here in Atlanta. Unlike your last reviewer, I have no real familiarity with the material, except for whatever was in Jersey Girl (unfortunately). Slit throats and meat pies, that's about all I knew. I mean, I was excited to see this. The screening started off with a little filmed "intro" featuring mostly scenes of Johnny Depp in Burton movies, and a brief, *brief* talking head of Depp and Burton. It was on par with an HBO First Look, and felt like an anticlimactic way to begin the film. Bored is not the right word. I mean, the visuals are stunning at times, the music is pretty large and wonderful (and loud), and the actors are all great. So I was plenty stimulated while watching it, but I guess my main problem with the movie is during some of the songs, the shots would just linger on a person's face. And here's this large face, dryly singing lyrics that are kind of funny. But then it's just this boring composition that I have to sit and stare at until the song is over. The visuals, the plain compositions, left me wanting a bit more. I don't expect an over-the-top musical, but a little energy in the shots, and not the same angle of a body falling through the trap door, would've been nice. Don't get me wrong, I didn't have a terrible time. There's a fantasy sequence that was fucking hysterical, and "Pretty Women" I rather enjoyed. But here I am, really struggling to find things I liked in this movie. Overall, I think it's ok, but seeing dreary London, Marla Singer, a gaunt Johnny Depp, a stern Alan Rickman, and a girl who, on first glance, I thought was Christina Ricci from Sleepy Hollow, I couldn't help but feel I wasn't watching anything new or refreshing. Then again, I did see this with two friends who liked it a lot, so what do I know? -Gamblor
Here's our final review where you'll get a twofer. Enjoy!
Over the past week I was attended preview screenings for the latest films by two of my favourite directors: Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood and Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd. Like many readers of the site, I’ve been anxiously awaiting the release of these movies like a junky desperate for his next hit of sweet, sweet heroin. I’m more than happy to report that both of my boys knocked these titles out of the park. If the names Burton or PTA make you excited about the existence of movies like me, then get ready for hours of geektastic pleasure (followed by additional hours of soiled pants related laundry). Sweeney Todd I’m part of a generation who grew up with Tim Burton. As a kid, his movies seemed so distinct to me that they essentially taught me what a director does. So, obviously I’ve got a sentimental attachment to this guy. That said, his last four movies have felt like a big “fuck you” to anyone who ever defended him, coming off as the stylish but vapid nonsense that Burton detractors always claimed he was making. It got to the point that I was about to give up on the guy. The darkness and personal storytelling I loved had been replaced by empty and excessive quirkiness. I was losing interest. Then he goes and makes Sweeney Todd. I won’t claim it’s the best movie he’s made—because it isn’t—but I can safely say that it’s easily the best movie the man has attached his name to since Ed Wood. The movie is a full-on musical, the kind where most of the dialogue is communicated through song. But it’s also a gothic horror movie. This combo’s been done before (Cannibal The Musical, Rocky Horror), but always in a tongue-in-cheek manner that pokes fun at how contradictory the genres are. Burton goes another route entirely, trying to balance both elements seriously and somehow he pulls it off. While there is a fair share of bloody black comedy, there’s also a surprising amount of dark and disturbing sequences for a movie where characters spontaneously burst into song. This risky decision is aided dramatically (puns are fun) by the cast. The concept simply wouldn’t work without them. Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter play the leads and kick ass doing so. Burton needed them to run a gauntlet of emotions, crack a few jokes and do it all through song. They pull it off perfectly. Alan Rickman is his usual brilliant self, walking that delicate line where pure evil and pure Britishness meet. Sacha Baron Cohen doesn’t have as big a part as his fans would like, but rest assured that he steals all his scenes and showcases some surprising versatility as an actor. I’d compare him to Peter Sellers were it not for fear of being lynched on the boards (Ill go with this half-assed comparison instead). The only problems with the cast—and the movie itself for that matter—are Jamie Campbell Bower and Jayne Wisner who play an impossibly nice and beautiful couple who feel very out of place in the world of the film and are only there to advance the plot. Still, they hardly kill the movie. In conclusion, if you’ve been waiting for Burton to get all gothic again and don’t mind his actors singing, get your ass to Sweeney Todd and thank me afterwards (monetary thanks preferred). There Will Be Blood My two word review: Hooooooooooooooolllllllllyyyyyyy Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck! I think the word masterpiece gets thrown around too much when talking about movies. Every critic likes to drop it a few times each year and the word is starting to lose meaning. That said, if any movie of 2007 deserves the masterpiece label (other than No Country For Old Men) it is There Will Be Blood. Like many film geeks, I’ve been in love with Paul Thomas Anderson ever since I saw the opening tracking shot in Boogie Nights. He’s a director with balls, talent, and a willingness to unashamedly attempt to make a great movie every time he steps behind the camera. He has his share of haters, but they’re stupid so let’s not even acknowledge them. The only worrying pattern in PTA’s career is that he keeps taking longer and longer between movies. That said, each of the last two movies have been completely unlike what came before, while still retaining Anderson’s directorial voice. I don’t know if I’m willing to call this his best movie until I get a few more viewings in, but it’s certainly not out of the question. Its not really worth going into specific plot details, because it’s the type of movie that rewards as little knowledge of the plot as possible. All the advanced reviews I’d read name dropped Citizen Kane like it was going out of style, and they’re right. This movie is about the inherent corruption of the American capitalist ideals (now I feel pretentious, but not enough to hit backspace). You watch a man pursue what he thinks to be the American dream, only to lose much more than he gains. The main difference between the two movies is that Charles Foster Kane was a sympathetic—if misguided—character, whereas Daniel Plainview is a fucking monster. The guy’s in every scene and equally fascinating and terrifying to watch. It’s the type of role that demands an amazing performance and Daniel Day-Lewis was the perfect guy to the job. Lewis completely loses himself in the character and gives the best performance of his career. I mean, the guy even growls like a bear while sleeping, yet somehow DDL makes it believable. Seriously, if he doesn’t get an Oscar for this then the Academy should be disbanded. Yes, he’s that good, so good that no other actor onscreen can touch him. Paul Dano and a few others try and give good performances, but you just can’t take your eyes off of Daniel Day-Lewis. While the movie is primarily The Daniel Day-Lewis Show, it is still very much a director’s piece. Paul Thomas Anderson directs with his standard combination of style, sensitivity, and bravado. Yet, it’s still a different beast than his other work. There’s next to no quirky character comedy, its not an ensemble piece, its not set in the San Fernando Valley and none of the Scorsese-influenced whiz-bang cinematography is there. Instead, There Will Be Blood is a thoughtful character study set in the past and shot with the poetic and pictorial beauty of a Terrance Malick movie. I really have nothing negative to say about it and don’t really want to keep writing for fear of A) giving away any spoilers or B) falling into the trap of pointless gushing. I’ll just say the word “masterpiece” again, kiss Paul Thomas Anderson’s ass one more time, and mention that despite the 2hr45min running time, I never once checked my watch. See it, love it, and spread the word. If you post this, call me P. TJ Mackey.